Tuesday, May 17, 2005

We Lacked Chemistry

I mentioned yesterday how crummy my high school physics class was. See, Dr. Wolfe decided he didn't like me because I was sick for two days in October of my junior year. He thought I was skipping. I may have been (I did that a lot) but I don't think so, since I didn't usually skip two days in a row. Anyway, since he decided I was skipping, he refused to explain the concept of vectors to me and I was lost thereafter for the rest of the year.

I believe my college transcript proves that I actually like science--I voluntarily took astronomy, oceanography, paleontology, evolutionary biology--but I hated my science classes in high school. There was no context. Sure, we'd do labs in chemistry. Beforehand, Mr. Doctor would explain to us that X plus Y equaled Z and then we'd do an experiment where we'd add X and Y and, if we didn't come out with Z, we'd doctor the lab sheet so we did. (A couple friends actually created matter during one experiment! Okay, their reaction overflowed the container and after they scraped it up off the floor, it weighed more than it should have, so they fudged the results so they wouldn't fail the lab.) That's learning to cheat, not learning chemistry.

But learning about oxidation and reduction (which I could not explain to you now if I tried) within the vacuum of the classroom is of no benefit, in my humble opinion. They never answered the real why--Why should I care? What does this have to do with me?

A lost opportunity: During my sophomore year, while I was taking chemistry, there was an explosion and fire at a grain elevator a few miles from the school. I remember watching the black smoke from the elevator from the window of the chemistry classroom. A perfect opportunity to talk about oxidation, i.e. burning, and how surface area relates to the rate of the reaction and why grain elevators are prone to explosions like this, etc. etc. etc. Mr. Doctor's response was "Get back to your experiment." Not surprisingly, I don't remember what experiment we were supposed to be doing.

I know when you attend a public high school, you have to take the good with the bad. Most of my teachers were outstanding. And I was a self-involved teenaged girl. (My geometry teacher suggested I transfer to the Honors class and I told him, "No, I don't want to work that hard." Oy.) I happen to love my high school. But that doesn't mean there's nothing that can be improved on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Typical school. Stupid curriculum is way more important than what is happening in the real world, right now.

I bet more learning would have occurred had your teacher taken the opportunity to talk about what was happening rather than focus on some inane lab that didn't pertain to anything...